|Ready for the Start|
You're way too busy with traffic, road signs, lane changes and border crossings...thank God.
The Car and the Rally:
We started from our hotel to the sound of bagpipes; quite lovely. It is only a 30 km drive to the Malaysian border, but a bit complicated. Singapore is so tightly packed that it is difficult to drive; hard to get a perspective as you are wandering through the path of big buildings; one larger than the next.
We arrived at the Singapore Exit Point without a problem, but that's where are problems began. We are required to carry in the car a Carnet de Passage (it is basically like a Passport for car). When you exit a country, the Custom Officials demand to see it, as they are trying to make sure you take out the same car as you brought in. When I showed the Singapore Customs my documents, they took a copy of my Carnet (not the original) and then spent an hour and a half in an isolated room trying to figure out what I was trying to smuggle out of Singapore. Finally, when I showed him the original, the agent was relieved and passed us out of the country......but, by that time we were now way behind the group. If the agent had asked us a couple of questions instead of keeping us waiting we could have moved along….an hour earlier.
Oh well, we spent most of the day trying to make up time and, by good fortune, we did not accumulate any penalty points for lateness, but what might have been our 'leisurely lunch" at a lovely marina was, for us, a 10 minute affair.
Our first test was a short speed test through a palm plantation over a very rough dirt road with big potholes. We did well.
The second test of the day was another speed test held at the Malacca International Circuit; big name but a small, slow and twisting track. The track was very slippery, although I can't figure out why as the weather was dry and there appeared to be no oil or rubber on the track. Nevertheless, we were slow, as were most of the competitors.
One other exciting moment on today's drive…. We made a very tricky left turn off a main road. The turn was mostly hidden and we were very pleased that we found it as several other competitors missed it and drove past it for several miles. We were so pleased with our accomplishment that following the left turn we forgot to place our car on the left side of the road (a la driving in the U.K.). We stabilized the car on the right side of the road ( a la driving in the USA).....directly in front of oncoming traffic! A lot of cars were honking (and others made gestures and called names much stronger than honking).
Fortunately, we got the car straightened out without causing an accident, but it was scary for a moment or two.
Palm Plantations as far as the eye can see....many of them carrying names like Sime Darby that date back hundreds of years to a time when all of Malaysia was under the control of the British Empire and its many dominating overseas companies. Lots of roadside stands selling pineapples and coconuts.
Malaysia is a predominantly Moslem country and the women dress very conservatively, and women in government service (e.g. Custom officials) wear scarves covering their hair; some even wear the hijab, but they drive -- even motorbikes.
Tonight we are staying at a hotel in the beach resort town of Malacca. We are about midway along the Malaccan Straits, which run from Georgetown, Penang in the North, to Singapore in the South. Governing these straits, as the British Navy did prior to WW II, controls much of the world's trade. The Straits narrow as they go south toward Singapore and they can be very difficult to navigate, especially in bad weather. There have been shipwrecks in these channels for a 1000 years as man has been compelled to seek out and venture into new lands.